Mildred Mitchell-Bateman was the first African-American woman to be named to a high-ranking office in West Virginia state government. In 1962, she became director of the Department of Mental Health and served in that capacity for fifteen years. Mildred Mitchell was born in Brunswick, Georgia, in 1922, the daughter of a minister and a registered nurse. She attended Barber-Scotia College in Concord, North Carolina, from 1937 to 1939, and graduated from Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte in 1941. She received an M.D. from the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1946. While interning in Philadelphia, Mitchell was hired as a staff physician at Lakin State Hospital, the black hospital for the mentally ill in West Virginia.
Mitchell-Bateman became the vice president of the American Psychiatric Association in 1973 and a member of the Presidential Commission on Mental Health which developed the Mental Health Systems Act of 1980. In 1977, Governor Jay Rockefeller merged the Department of Mental Health into the larger Department of Health. Mitchell-Bateman resigned as director and became chair of the Psychiatry Department of Marshall University's medical school on July 1.